Irkutsk officials wash off Hawthorn lotion

Irkutsk officials wash off Hawthorn lotion
Photo: Matrena Bizikova / Kommersant

The investigation of the mass poisoning in Irkutsk has reached the level of the Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation.

While the law enforcement authorities are seizing Boyaryshnik (Hawthorn) bath lotion – which has already killed almost 60 people – from Irkutsk retailers, the local officials state that they had attempted to convince the federal authorities to impose a ban on this product as early as six months ago. Local people had been addressing them with complaints that this cosmetic product containing 93% of ethanol is a popular alcohol drink among the population. In the meantime, new arrests are quite possible in the framework of this criminal case. Taking the scope of the incident, Alexander Bastrykin, the Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), is heading to Irkutsk.

Sergei Levchenko, the Governor of the Irkutsk Region, has reported at a session of the Emergency Situation Commission that the regional authorities had addressed the Ministry of Industries and Trade of the Russian Federation this spring with a proposal to ban the sales of the alcohol-containing liquid with hawthorn extract: “The federal agency has responded that this proposal would be taken into consideration during the amendment of the legislation. I am certain that now this process should accelerate,” – said Levchenko with a bitter irony.

According to the most recent information, 58 people have died from drinking Boyaryshnik bath lotion available in Irkutsk retail outlets. The chemical assessment has found that the liquid contains methanol. 34 victims died in hospitals, while 24 – at home. Patients in serious condition continue being admitted to Irkutsk hospitals where they are immediately connected to artificial lungs. As of Tuesday evening, 38 victims still remain in medical institutions. Most probably, the fatality figures are not final: not all spots where homeless people could drink alcohol have been checked yet, somebody could have the lotion at home, etc.

Sergei Levchenko believes that the bath lotion producers were focused from the very beginning on gaining the most profits from selling it as a drink, not a cosmetic product. “They named the product Boyaryshnik (Hawthorn). People know that there was a medicine – hawthorn tincture – used by a certain population group for many years and throughout the country absolutely not for medical purposes. They just used the familiar brand name to attract this population category – people who do not think much what are they drinking,” – Levchenko told journalists.

Municipal authorities also tried to ban the new Boyaryshnik. In spring, they had submitted letters to the regional Administration and Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor) asking to ban this bath lotion due to frequent complaints from the residents. “This product contains a large amount of ethanol (the labeled concentration is 93%). Therefore, some people use it as an alcohol drink,” – the letters stated. The regional officials have replied that they had already addressed the federal authorities in that regard, while Rospotrebnadzor responded that it is impossible to verify the legitimacy of sales because the product belongs to the perfume-cosmetic group and is not a food product.

Although it is unknown yet where exactly the poisonous liquid was produced, Vasily Alekseev, the Deputy Police Chief for Maintenance of Public Order of the General Administration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation in the Irkutsk Region, said: “It is already clear for us that everything was located here”. The law enforcement authorities have found two workshops producing Boyaryshnik: one near Irkutsk, in Shestaya Pyatiletka (Sixth Quinquennium) nursery garden, and the other one – in Shelekhov, inside the former diary plant. Several people who could be involved into this business have been arrested.

In the meantime, taking the scope of the incident, Alexander Bastrykin, the Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), is heading to Irkutsk to coordinate the investigation (his Deputy Ilya Lazutov has been in the region since the first day of the investigation). According to Kommersant sources, new arrests in the framework of this criminal case are quite possible in the coming hours.



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